Tazarotene cream (marketed as Zorac in South Africa) is in the same Vitamin A family as Retin-A, another acne drug considered to be a potent wrinkle reliever.
While the drug is used by people with sun damage, the study's authors say their research, which was funded by the makers of the cream, offers more proof of its value.
Combatting sun damage
"The cream was better than moisturiser alone for improving fine wrinkling and mottled pigmentation of the skin, in combination with protecting skin from the sun," says study co-author Dr Tania Phillips, a professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Sun damage to skin begins at the first exposure to sunlight and accumulates over a lifetime, says Dr Richard Glogau, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California at San Francisco.
Ultraviolet light penetrates the skin and damages its internal structure by wreaking havoc on the DNA of cells, he explains.
"The initial changes are a loss of 'glow,' change in pigmentation - freckles, splotchiness, brown or muddy tones - and damage to elastic and collagen fibres resulting in wrinkles and fine lines," he adds.
In its worst forms, sun damage can lead to skin cancer. More commonly, it simply makes people look old and leathery.
Big improvement in tone, colour and wrinkles
In the study funded by the pharmaceutical company Allergan, which makes tazarotene cream, researchers recruited 563 people with sun damage and told all of them to apply a cream to their face each day for six months.
While the subjects didn't know it, half of them received a 0.1 percent tazarotene cream, while the others used a non-medicated cream.
All of the people in the study had to have mottled discoloration of the skin and fine wrinkling to be enrolled, Phillips says. Researchers also looked at age spots, yellowish leathery skin, white spots, large pores, skin roughness, dilated blood vessels and pre-cancerous spots.
A total of 511 patients finished the study; their average age was 56 and almost all were women. Compared to those who received the placebo cream, those who used the tazarotene cream looked better at the end of treatment, the researchers say.
Among other things, the tazarotene users had less wrinkling, mottled pigmentation and skin roughness. Most of the patients continued using the tazarotene cream for another 28 weeks, and researchers reported that their faces continued to improve.
However, 20 of the 283 patients initially treated with tazarotene cream had to stop because of side effects. Among other things, the drug can cause peeling, redness, burning and dryness, Phillips says.
Boosting collagen production
The study, which appears in the November issue of the Archives of Dermatology, didn't compare tazarotene cream to other drugs.
However, Phillips says the findings suggest that it works about as well as other medications in the Vitamin A family. Those drugs appear to work by boosting production of a component of skin known as collagen, she explains.
Glogau says tazarotene cream may be a good alternative to Retin-A (known by the brand name Renova) because it may work more quickly and be less irritating. However, he adds, "the endpoints are still the same." – (HealthScout News)
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